Archives for category: Learning Old Arts
Lima Beans by Carmyarmyofme
Lima Beans, a photo by Carmyarmyofme on Flickr.

I make the best Lima beans (sorry Dad, but these are really special).

Sauté a chopped onion in olive oil.
Add several whole cloves of garlic.
Add farro or pearl barley (this one had both because I was using stuff up).
Add miso paste ( I used about 7 or 8 tablespoons).
Add Lima beans (previously soaked over night).
Add water to cover.
Add a couple of sprigs of thyme, a big sprig of rosemary, a spoonful each of dried tarragon and oregano.
Simmer until your beans are soft and ready to eat. 1-2 hours. Maybe 3 if you have stubborn beans.
30 minutes before you are ready to eat, throw some cornbread on to cook. Serve with Greek yogurt or sour cream.

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Hoppin' Johns, Collard Greens, Cornbread, and Sliced Ham

Many cultures celebrate the New Year with a traditional meal.  In fact, I’ve been eating mochi for the last few years because I had regularly been attending Oshogatsu festivals in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, located near my old home.  But the traditional food that I brought with me out of South Carolina is Hoppin’ Johns and Collard Greens.

Hoppin’ Johns are stewed black eyed peas served with rice.  Eating them on New Year’s Day should bring you luck in the new year.  Eating Collard Greens should bring you wealth, or so says everyone with whom I grew up.  Traditionally, my dad stewed both of those dishes with some pork – usually ham hock.  I invented vegetarian options for myself from my vegetarian years, and serve them with sliced ham so that you can add the meat if you want.  I like my version so much, that I still eat them that way even after rejoining the carnivorous world. Here are my recipes for these New Year foods:

Collard Greens:

In a Dutch Oven pan or stew pot, sauté one or two chopped jalapeño peppers (with seeds) in two to three tablespoons of olive oil.  When they start to soften, add about three cups of veggie broth and bring to a simmer.

Wash two large bunches of collard greens and rip the leafy parts away from the stems.  Discard stems and add the collards to the simmering broth.  Cover and simmer at a low temperature for at least one hour, stirring occasionally, until collards are tender.  If you can not find collards, consider using chard but keep in mind that it takes less time to cook chard than collards.

Hoppin’ Johns:

If using dried black eyed peas: soak first.  If using canned black eyed peas, rinse well.

Sauté a diced yellow onion in olive oil.  I use one or two onions for about four cups of beans.  Add one tablespoon of miso paste per cup of beans, and one cup of water for each tablespoon of miso that you used.   Add the beans, they should be just covered with liquid.  Add a tablespoon of dried tarragon and two teaspoons of garlic powder.  Stew the beans on medium-low heat until they are tender – almost mushy, but not falling apart.  Add a couple of teaspoons of cayenne pepper, and some salt and pepper to taste.

Serve both the Hoppin’ Johns and Collard Greens over rice and with generous amounts of apple cider vinegar.  Trust me on the apple cider vinegar, it is essential to the taste of the dish!  I also make cornbread, which in my family we ate with sour cream on it.  Greek yogurt makes a healthier alternative, but not everyone is ready for yogurt or sour cream on their cornbread.  Use sliced ham as a garnish, not as a main dish.  Enjoy!

Finishing off the brew

A few weeks before I left Los Angeles, our good friend, Aaron, invited my husband and I to learn how to homebrew beer.  He was making an amber ale, and we were invited to participate in the brewing process.  We jumped at the chance to learn something new, and as beer lovers, we were extremely curious about the process as a d.i.y. project.

We started with a kit, because none of us are advanced enough to not need one at this point.  Our kit came from Northern Brewer and it was the American Amber Ale kit. It included the caramel/malt grain, Amber malt syrup, Cascade hops, and yeast.  The kit also came with instructions, but Aaron relied more heavily on the information provided in How to Brew by John Palmer.

Homebrewing requires a lot of specialized equipment and a lot of patience for sterilizing that equipment.  At the very least you’ll need a fermentor, a bottling bucket with a spigot, a thermometer, an airlock for the fermentor, a bottle brush, bottle capper, bottle caps, a bottle filling hose, siphon tubing, a very large stovetop pot, sterilizing cleanser, large measuring cups, a sieve, and a hydrometer for measuring alcohol content.  There are more items if you want to add to your equipment, but this is pretty much what you’ll need to get started. You will also find yourself collecting beer bottles for a while, which you’ll have to wash and remove the commercial labels from before you sterilize them for the homebrew bottling day.

I loved the smell of the grain.  It was a rich, fulfilling smell that made me very excited about the results of the brewing process.  I’ve noticed that the beers I prefer have a rich smell to them, even if they are not super-heavy brews like stouts or porters.  A good beer has a lot of flavor.

The process requires a lot of patience and waiting around for things to happen.  You have to wait for large pots to boil and add ingredients at key times.  There is boiling and steeping and temperature taking, followed by pouring, straining, aerating, and cleaning up the big mess you made when you sloshed a bunch of liquid onto the floor.  C’est la vie.  It’s all worth it for the sense of accomplishment and the ability to taste your own homemade beer.

Bottling day is weeks after the initial brewing day.  In our case, it was four weeks later.  During that time the beer is fermenting and becoming alcoholic.  The beers then have to condition in the bottles for at least a couple of weeks, but in our case, we found that the longer the beer was in the bottles, the better the beer was.

It was certainly an adventure, and a serious commitment to buying specialized equipment and giving up space in your home for the stuff, especially while the beer is fermenting.  But, it was really fantastic to learn how beer is made and to take control of the process.

The books we used during this process are all worth checking out.

The Naked Pint by Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune is more of an overview of different styles of beer, but it does contain some recipes.

The Complete Joy of Homebrewing by Charlie Papazian and How to Brew by John Palmer are the straightforward instruction manuals which explain how to complete this process.

Verdict: Check them out.

Pickled Tomatillos with Habaneros and Garlic

This weekend I learned something new.  Well, something old, but new to me.  Mary from Cooking with the Junior League showed me some of her awesome canning skills that she learned last year when she made batches of jam and pickles.

Some people are fortunate enough to have these skills passed down through the generations, but rows and rows of densely packed supermarket shelves have encouraged the latest generations to take the easy way out.  My grandmother used to put up preserves when I was very small but had stopped by the time I could have learned the task from her.  Now that my grandmother has passed away, I can’t even call her and ask for tips.  Lucky for me, Mary had learned from her experiments with Junior League cookbooks and was willing to teach a hands-on learner like myself.

Peach Jam

Mary’s first batch was for peach jam.  The recipe is so simple you could kick yourself for ever eating store-bought jams.  Peaches + sugar, boil, and violà!  The original recipe from a Junior League of Memphis cookbook said to “Boil until mixture threads from a spoon like a goose web.”  You can’t beat directions like that.

A word of caution when using old cookbooks: they assume that the reader knows a lot of things that we may not.  Canning practices were ubiquitously know by prior generations.  Mary was able to spell out the process for me, from sterilization to sealing.  Fortunately, there are a lot of new titles coming out these days to lay out the process for this generation.  Some of the cool ones that I have seen are Ashley English’s Canning & Preserving and Karen Solomon’s Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It and Other Cooking Projects. You can also pickle vegetables without the boiling and sealing process if you are going to both refrigerate your jars and eat them within a month.  Otherwise, you need to take precautions against microbial invaders.

Pickled Green Beans with Basil & Garlic

Our two pickling projects of the day were tomatillos with habanero and garlic, and green beans with basil and garlic.  Mmmm, garlic.  The two batches came together quickly because of our awesome teamwork and the relative simplicity of the pickling process.  I see pickled tomatillos in my future: chopped in tacos, mixed into fresh salsa or guacamole, or spicing up a good sandwich.  The green beans should be a great addition to a salad or a picnic lunch.

The beauty of making your own preserves are the little touches, like the cumin seed in our jars of tomatillos, or the peppercorns in our jars of green beans.  One of my friends makes jams such as Raspberry Jalapeño with a bit of nectarine or Strawberry Cardamom.  Making something that you would not likely see at a grocery store is part of the fun and what makes doing it yourself worthwhile.  It’s a challenge: what sort of awesome concoction can I create?  Now that I know how to do this, I’m going to keep challenging myself.